Your Winter Veggie Harvest: Good for You...But How Long Will It Stay Good?
So you've carefully pulled up all the carrots and beets, plucked all the Brussels sprouts and felled all the tiny trees of broccoli. Now what?
The simple answer is, of course, to just cook and eat them. But what if you've got a large amount of veggies, or just want to extend them for awhile? Here's a look at the most common winter crops, along with their culinary uses, vitamin content and storage options.
Non-Leafy and Non-Root Cole (Mustard Family) Crops
All members of the Brassicaceae (or Cruciferous) family are good sources of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, potassium and iron. Recent research suggests a diet rich in these crops can reduce the risks of cancer and heart disease.
Cabbage is the most cold-hardy of the group and will keep the longest if stored correctly.
Root crops are generally easy to grow, requiring only loose, crumbly soil and sunshine to do well. They also keep the longest of all vegetables if given the right storage conditions. Consider yourself lucky if you have a root cellar or a cold, dark basement with high humidity. In cool climates, makeshift root cellars can be built into the side of a hill or in a box partially submerged in the ground.
An extensive article about building and managing your own Root Cellar, from Hobbyfarms.com
You buy a bag of lettuce and it turns brown within three days, right? Welcome to the drawback of storing leafy veggies. Due to their high water content, leafy crops - with the exception of cabbage -- go bad the quickest. Thick, crinkly-type spinach is also more resistant to spoilage, but can develop a rubbery taste after awhile.
If you buy full heads of lettuce, try wrapping a dry paper towel around the head before storing in a plastic bag and placing it in the produce drawer in your fridge.
|Vegetable Name||Family||Crop Type||Vitamins||Preservation||Storage|
|Beet||Root||Root and Leafy Greens||Beet roots and leaves contain calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin A and vitamin K||Leave on tail and 1/2" of stem. Boil 30-45 minutes, remove skins, slice or cube, then freeze. Can also be pickled or canned.||Cold (32°F), moist conditions (95% RH) for three to five months with greens removed, greens may be stored as well|
|Bok Choy/Chinese Cabbage||Cole||Cooking greens||Excellent source of folate and vitamins A and C||Cool, moist storage is best (may be canned)||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days|
|Broccoli||Cole||Fruiting/Flowering||An excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A, as well as folate and fiber. A good source of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and the vitamins B6 and E.||Wash and trim off leaves, boil 3 minutes or steam 5 minutes, seal and freeze in plastic bag, leaving no headroom||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for 10 to 14 days|
|Brussels Sprouts||Cole||Fruiting/Flowering||Vitamins C, K, and A, folate, manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamin (vitamin B1), omega-3 fatty acids, iron, phosphorous, protein, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin E, copper and calcium.||Salt soak, wash, trim outer leaves, boil 3-5 minutes, seal and freeze in plastic bag, leaving no headroom.||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for three to five weeks|
|Cabbage||Cole||Leafy||Excellent source of vitamins A and C. Also contains anti-cancer properties||Can as sauerkraut, or chop into wedges and freeze for use in soups.||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for four to five months. Store separately from root crops|
|Carrots||Root||Root||Vitamin A, C, potassium, calcium||Remove tops, wash and peel. Boil baby carrots whole 5 minutes. Cut mature carrots into slices or strips and boil 2 minutes. Seal and freeze in plastic bags.||Cold (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions. Baby carrots will last two to four weeks, mature carrots four to five months|
|Cauliflower||Cole||Fruiting/Flowering||Vitamin C, folate and dietary fiber. Also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.||Break into florets and boil in salt water for 3 minutes before freezing, or pickle||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for two to four weeks.|
|Chard||Cole||Leafy Greens||Significant amounts of vitamins A and C, iron||Freeze||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days|
|Collard||Cole||Cooking greens||Significant amounts of vitamins A and C, iron||Cool, moist storage is best (may be canned)||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days|
|Garlic||Allium||Root/Bulb||High in potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin C and A. Thought to perhaps lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure if eaten raw.||Do not store raw garlic in oil. Use a ceramic or terra cotta "garlic keeper". Freezing is possible, but the flavor will be greatly diminished.||Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate.|
|Kale||Cole||Cooking greens||vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese. Lots of dietary fiber, copper, calcium, vitamin B6 and potassium||Cool, moist storage is best (may be canned)||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days|
|Kohlrabi||Cole||Root||High in Vitamin C and potassium||Freeze||Store in a cool basement|
|Lettuce||Leaf||Leafy Greens||Non-iceberg types of lettuce provide potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron||Cool, moist refrigeration; canning and freezing not recommended||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for two to three weeks|
|Mustard||Cole||Cooking greens||Excellent source of Vitamins E, C and A||Cool, moist storage is best (may be canned)||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days|
|Onions||Allium||Root/Bulb||Vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus||Wash, peel and chop raw, fully mature onions into about 1/2" pieces. There is no need to blanch onions. Bag and freeze flat.||Store at near freezing, but with low humidity to discourage neck rot|
|Parsnips||Root||Root||Excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folic acid, pantothenic acid, copper, and manganese||Cut off tops, wash, peel and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Water-blanch for 2 minutes or steam-blanch for 3 minutes. Cool promptly and drain. Turnips and parsnips can also be fully cooked before freezing. Pack blanched or fully cooked turnips or parsnips in suitable containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and freeze.||Cold (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions, two to six months|
|Radishes||Cole||Root||vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, folate, sulphur, iron and iodine||Freezing not recommended. Pickle or use in relishes instead||Spring radishes - cool (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions, three to four weeks; winter radishes - cool (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions, two to four months|
|Spinach||Leaf||Leafy Greens||Huge source of Vitamin A||Wash thoroughly in an ice water bath to remove sand and insects. Rinse. Cut off woody stems and remove damaged leaves. Leaves can be left whole or chopped coarsely. Water-blanch spinach for 2 minutes. Cool promptly and drain. Transfer cooled, blanched greens into suitable containers. Seal, label and freeze. Leave 1/2 inch headspace.||Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions 10 to 14 days|
|Turnips/Rutabagas||Cole||Root||Turnip greens are an amazing source of vitamin A (through their concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, copper, calcium, and dietary fiber.||Cut off tops, wash, peel and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Water-blanch for 2 minutes or steam-blanch for 3 minutes. Cool promptly and drain. Turnips and parsnips can also be fully cooked before freezing. Pack blanched or fully cooked turnips or parsnips in suitable containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and freeze.||Cold (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions, two to four months. Rutabagas can be dipped in wax to reduce shriveling.|
|Winter Squash (including Pumpkins)||Cucurbit||Fruiting/Flowering||vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber, folate and thiamin.||Cooked squash freezes well. Pack into freezer containers or freezer bags leaving 1/2 inch head space and freeze for up to one year. Canning is not recommended unless the squash is cut into cubes. Mashed squash is too dense and heat penetration is uneven. Because spaghetti squash does not stay cubed on heating, it should be frozen instead of canned.||After harvesting, cure winter squash (except for the acorn types) at room temperature of 70-80F and a relative humidity of 80-85%. Curing helps to harden their skins and heal any cuts and scratches. Do not cure acorn squash. After curing, store winter squash in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Storage temperatures should be 50F. Do not store squash near apples, pears, or other ripening fruit. When properly cured and stored, the storage lives of acorn, butternut, and hubbard squash are approximately 5 to 8 weeks, 2 to 3 months, and 5 to 6 months, respectively.|